Steve Chandra of Asian Dub Foundation talks politics, new songs and feeling suicidal whilst listening to Joy Division on a desert island, with Paul Fennessy
In terms of interviews, musicians fall into two categories. There are those who are on their ten-thousandth interview of the day, praying to God for a nuclear holocaust to bring an end to the ceaseless questioning. Conversely, there are the well-meaning but boring ones, who spend most of their lives locked in a bedroom, crafting tune after tune about why Mummy and Daddy now sleep in separate houses.
But sometimes a musician comes along to make the interviewer cast aside all journalistic integrity, and acquire a sudden compulsion to marry, regardless of gender or orientation. Steve Chandra, guitarist with Asian Dub Foundation, is one of them. Thankfully for otwo, the feeling is mutual: “Thank you,” he says as we hang up. “Great interview, by the way. I really enjoyed that one. Make sure you come and find me at the gig, yeah?”
Chandra as an articulate, engaging and frank speaker, content to discuss a broad range of topics from the ignominious downfall of Lady Sovereign (“I had high hopes for her… Now she’s on Celebrity Big Brother making an arse of herself”) to his reservations regarding the burgeoning phenomenon of Britain’s music schools (“Music should surprise you – it should have a maverick element and I think that has gone from British music. It’s all very systematised”).
But first there’s the business of Chandra’s own career and the near-completion of ADF’s seventh studio album. Chandra tells otwo that the project represents a significant departure in terms of lyrical focus. “It’s a little bit different,” he says. “If people say, ‘What do you think of the war in Afghanistan?’, I’ll say, ‘listen to ‘Blowback’ on Enemy of the Enemy’. We’ve been around [for] fifteen, sixteen years and we’ve started to explore what has actually changed.
“We have been through a second industrial revolution. I think that has enormous implications about how human beings relate to one another… we’re mutating; we’re different human beings because of this stuff.”
Hardcore fans need not worry though, as Chandra assures otwo that musically, the album is still “very recognisably ADF”, with the outfit’s penchant for amalgamating diverse sounds firmly intact. Their eclecticism is highlighted by the fact that they consider artists as different as Joy Division and Afrika Bambaattaa as being equally important influences.
On this, otwo finishes with the obligatory Desert Island Disc question and suggests Joy Division’s Closer as a potential candidate. “No, not Joy Division – I’d fucking throw myself in the sea! I think It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back by Public Enemy. Whenever I hear it, it just blows my head off. Even though I don’t agree with some of the lyrics, I just think the fucking vibe on it is so explosive.”